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TheGreenBandit
Dec 22, 2006

President of the United States of Boogers


I do automation on water and wastewater systems, as an on-site engineer. We use mostly Allen Bradley systems with iFix, but we're in the process of dumping it to move to Ignition. We've also got a small fleet of old Bristol Babcock 3330 era controls around that we're slowly replacing.

Ask me all about the aborted failure of a product that was iFix WebHMI, and committing to it 100% as an organization a year before GE straight up halted all development on it :shepicide:. I can't say I'm sad though, our reasons for sticking with iFix were organizational momentum, and their failure gave us justification to make the jump off of their garbage platform to Ignition.

Seriously though, going from iFix and it's flat tag structure paradigm to a PlantPax/Ignition combination has been awesome. Also, because we had committed to WebHMI (which was just an HTML5/OPCUA skin on top of the terrible legacy iFix PDB), we are committing to HTML5 SCADA via Ignition's Perspective, and ignoring the legacy Vision client entirely.


joebuddah posted:

I do Ingition development.

Are you doing any Perspective development yet, or just Vision? Curious to hear others' take on the differences.

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TheGreenBandit
Dec 22, 2006

President of the United States of Boogers


I want to take a minute to talk about SCADA, and poo poo all over iFix, specifically WebHMI.

For those of you know who aren't "up" on controls engineering / PLC / SCADA stuff, everything revolves around Tags. A tag is a bit of data, like a pressure, or a state (whether a motor is on or off). These are basically like variables in programming, with different datatypes (FLOATs/INTs/BOOLEANs/Strings etc...). In your typical SCADA setup, you have two main pieces:

PLCs are like small computers with lots of I/O ports (for devices to connect and receive commands) and use logic to make the connected devices do things (like open a valve when a tank gets low, or stop the reactor if it gets too hot).

HMI software (also called SCADA), which are the fancy displays you see in power plants or other control rooms. HMI lets humans interact with the PLCs and see what's going on, or send commands (like start a pump, or overdose all the chemicals in drinking water if you're a hacker).

Tags by definition must be communicated between the PLCs and HMI software. In the year 2021, one might think that this would be simple, and largely with modern protocols such as OPCUA or Ethernet/IP, you would be right.

Not with iFix however. iFix originates from a program called Fix32, which is old as dirt and was a decent program for the early 90s. At the time, PLCs were expected to have few tags, and to use them in iFix, you'd put them in a translation table (called Database), with a 30-character limit for the translated Tag name within iFix. When Fix32 transitioned to iFix, they decided to basically take all the old Fix32 legacy code, and bury it underneath a shiny new interface. This worked about as well as one might expect. Fast forward 20 years, and iFix, now owned by GE, had changed exactly 0% and nobody sane was buying into it. Since HTML5 had been a thing for about 4 years, they decided to actually do a thing with iFix, and make it pretty for the new fancy "Internet Of Things". They licensed a decent IOT framework ThingWorx, and slapped it on top of the old iFix code, with some fancy OPCUA shims to make the drat thing actually work, kind of. They called their platform the very original name "WebHMI".

ThingWorx/WebHMI, being a shim on top of iFix, requires yet ANOTHER translation on top of the original iFix translation table. This one uses "Asset Models" to template tags, though advanced features are missing such as "copy and paste", or "test outside of production". Also, the 30-character tag name limit in the iFix translation table STILL applies, so fancy things such as keeping your naming consistent across your PLC, and two translations is not possible.

I'm not actually sure if there were any other customers of WebHMI aside from us. We as an organization went all-in on WebHMI as a platform, using the ever reliable sunk costs fallacy. Not that it matters much, since GE killed WebHMI as a product three years after we invested in it, and has now switched to their totally different not at all just another shim on top of legacy iFix "Operations Hub". They tried to convince us to spec it in our upcoming projects despite at the time lacking such features as "being able to read tags from PLCs" and "not being alpha release". We politely told them to shove it.

TLDR: don't use iFix.

TheGreenBandit
Dec 22, 2006

President of the United States of Boogers


joebuddah posted:

I wish they would include me in the new machine purchase conversation. It's not until after the machine is delivered that they have the idea that they want to view the mes data. When I ask things like is this machine networked, opcua? I get blank stares.

It was a long struggle to get included in these conversations where I'm at now. Especially since some of the projects had been in-planning long before I was around. It took a few blown contingency budgets on silly things like communication and working control strategies, but that and consistent hounding for two years got the Controls team involved in new project planning.

TheGreenBandit
Dec 22, 2006

President of the United States of Boogers


I love the old stuff. Not for working seriously on, but just for farting around. We just decommissioned a few SLC-150s and I've been playing around with them on the handheld programmer. Nothing like editing your program one instruction at a time, and keeping it all in your head.

TheGreenBandit
Dec 22, 2006

President of the United States of Boogers


Don't forget about OPC DA, OPC UA, and my favorites, BSAP & BSAP-IP.

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